A guide to surviving the festive period

Your Christmas this year is likely to be different from any you have experienced before (and hopefully any that follow). COVID restrictions mean that there will be less travelling and less mixing with lots of family and friends this year. If you have also had a new addition to the family this year, then there are two reasons why your Christmas experience will change. Surviving Christmas

If you are going to visit family or have some to stay during the five day Christmas period, here are some tips you can use to help make sure both you and your baby or small child will enjoy this Christmas together. Tip 1 – don’t overdo it Christmas is a very stimulating times for babies; from all the attention they receive from extra adults to the exciting sights, sounds, smells in the house. You will be amazed how babies change and grow in response to the stimulation that Christmas provides. However, this can also be overstimulating for them It’s OK to say no to very tiring and over stimulating visits. Christmas can often be a time when you either spend a lot of time on the road driving to a relative's house, or your family come to you. Either way you end up with a Christmas that's exhausting for both you and the baby. As with babies Christmas is a fantastically exciting time for toddlers and small children, but at this time of year you can often see exaggerated emotions, where the highs and lows seem to happen more quickly and more frequently. Avoid too many outings, over-stimulating situations, and too much car travel. Tip 2 – familiar objects To keep your baby feeling secure when taking them to new places or if you have unfamiliar people staying with you, make sure you have plenty of familiar toys or their special blanket with you. There will also be the inevitable passing of your baby around the relatives and as long as your baby is fine with it then don’t worry. Do stay close by though in case your baby needs to come back to you. Tip 3 – avoid over stimulation Try and encourage excited grandparents not to over play with baby all day – some quiet cuddles are a good counterbalance to all those bright new (and sometimes noisy) toys that they got for Christmas. Over-stimulation of older children during the Christmas period is a common cause of stress and overwrought emotions. Limit screen time and encourage play and physical activities to give an outlet to excitement and stress. Go slow. Plan ahead so that you don’t have to hurry. Tip 4 – let baby take a break Again, it’s OK to insist that your baby has a break from all the festivities and to avoid over stimulating your baby make sure you have plenty of them. Find a quiet room and cuddle or feed them and let them take a nap, making sure they are not disturbed and get the rest they need. Give children more quiet, unstressed unhurried time. Give them time to just play and potter quietly at home. For over-excited toddlers provide enough opportunities to sleep and soothe them at bedtime with a gentle massage. Make sure you get enough sleep yourself! Tip 5 – relax! Young children are very tuned into how their parent feels. The best way to keep your baby calm is for you to relax. When things start to get stressful, take a deep breath and calm yourself. Remember that the festive period is primarily to give everyone a break and allow them to spend quality time with each other. Avoid over scheduling and try to take regular breaks to keep you relaxed as well. Accept all offers of help too! Christmas and Language Development Christmas provides some serious development opportunities too, especially language and social development. Babies and toddlers learn to talk and understand language by listening to others talking. Family holidays such as Christmas provide a great opportunity for your baby or toddler to hear more language spoken both at social gatherings or when you are are all sitting round together away from your work stations. The greater the exposure a baby or toddler has to the spoken word, the greater their understanding will be and the larger their vocabulary. Chatty parents make for chatty babies. To help your baby’s language development you need to be talking to them all the time. Once your baby starts producing a few words you can help promote expansion of their language skills in a variety of ways. At this stage, although it is still vital that you continue to talk and talk to them, make sure you are giving them plenty of opportunity to express themselves too. Even in busy gatherings make sure your little people are being heard. During celebrations it is beneficial for their language and memory development if you explain what is going on and recap the day’s events at bedtime. Another way to help your baby's or toddler's memory is by introducing a few family Christmas traditions. Every family will have their own set of traditions at this time of year and it is never too early to start your family traditions with your children. Research shows that the best childhood memories are formed more from spending time together as a family than material wealth. "Christmas traditions are important. Kids need to feel they belong, and shared memories help reinforce that and help them to develop their own sense of identity" says psychologist Dr Amanda Gummer, a parenting and play expert. We hope you all enjoy your family time over this festive period

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